Now that we’re all comfortably back home in Geelong, the time has come to reflect on an action-packed weekend at the 42nd Australian-Croatia Soccer Tournament in Adelaide.
The senior men were drawn in Group B of Division 1, alongside Sydney Croatia Youth, St Albans Dinamo and Canberra Croatia. At the opening ceremony, torrential rain and gale-force winds threatened to derail the progress of the group stage matches, but some terrific work from the tournament committee, which saw a deluged pitch pumped of water in the early hours of Friday morning, ensured that all matches were played on a reasonable surface.
Sydney Croatia Youth were North Geelong Croatia’s first group stage opponents for the weekend. With Sydney United 58 FC competing in the NPL Grand Final the same weekend as the tournament, the club sent its first youth side in the senior side’s place. Credit must go to Sydney Croatia’s young lads, who showed bravery and ability, coming away with a point for its effort after North Geelong squandered an abundance of opportunities, with only Matthew Townley managing to get on the scoresheet with a fine free kick into the top corner. Congratulations also to Sydney United’s senior side who won the NPL Grand Final on Sunday.
The second group stage game was also held on Friday afternoon and North Geelong met St Albans Dinamo. The Melbourne-based side, which, like North Geelong, also achieved promotion from NPL2 West this season, took the points with a 2-0 win. The loss to Dinamo meant that North Geelong needed a win against Canberra Croatia to progress from the group stage. On Saturday afternoon, that is precisely what North Geelong managed, as Nicholas Jurčić scored a late winner in a 2-1 win after Kene Eze scored North’s first.
In the semi-final, North Geelong were paired with Division 1 winner and next year’s NPL Victoria opponents Melbourne Croatia. With Dandenong City and St Albans Dinamo progressing from Group 1, it was an all-Victorian final four. Our opponents took the lead in the second half despite our general dominance of play and chances but a late Darren Lewis strike saw the encounter finish 1-1 and head to penalties. Unfortunately, Knights took out the game in the shoot-out.
The club’s attentions then turned to the Miss Croatia Australia and New Zealand Gala Ball where Nikolina Banovac was North Geelong’s representative. After a night which saw a further three members from across Australia inducted into the CSAANZ Hall of Fame, Nikolina was then named Miss Personality, with Belinda Marić of Adelaide Croatia taking out Miss Croatia Australia and Strathmore Split’s Josipa Luburić coming in at Runner Up. Nikolina did an outstanding job representing the club and local community at the tournament and we thank her for her efforts and congratulate her on her Miss Personality title.
To Adelaide Raiders SC, to the local Croatian community, to the volunteers, to the tournament committee, the Savez and the club committee, thank you for putting on an outstanding tournament. We hope to see as many of you as possible at next year’s Adelaide Croatia – North Geelong Croatia Friendship Cup.
Congratulations also to Canberra Croatian and the entire Canberra Croatian community and local Canberra football community on winning the right to host the 43rd Australian-Croatia Soccer Tournament. See you next year to do it all again!